Please note that the opinions reflected on this blog are solely MY opinion. They do not reflect the Peace Corps or the US Government in any way.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

30 books, 50 movies, and 100 pages later. 1 Year In.

By 1 year in, I mean I have been living in Senegal for over a year now. This is not necessarily one year that I have been sworn into the Peace Corps, that comes August 10th. How did this happen!? I remember my post after I was one MONTH in. My, time sure flies when you're having fun.... or also when you're not. My one year anniversary of living in Senegal just so happens to fall shortly after I had been vacationing in the states for about three weeks. I was originally supposed to go for under two weeks but then there was a death in my family so I was able to get my trip extended. Cancer finally won the battle against my sweet uncle Norbert. The void that has been left in our family is unexplainable but at least we can all find peace in the fact that his suffering is finally over.

Other than the obvious unfortunate reason that I was home early, the trip was amazing. There were nice dinners; that food that I had been missing for months and months was plentiful and in every direction that I looked. The air conditioning and use of my old car in order to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted were amazing. I couldn’t put a price or quantifiable value on the time with my family. My nieces didn’t forget me. They warmed up to me and realized who I was again almost immediately.
Everything was so clean. My adorable family had my room spotless and there were fresh sheets!!!! I’m telling you, hand-washed sheets just don’t smell the same. The mountains were incredibly beautiful and I spent a fair amount of time in them just relishing in what I had missed so much. I was able to see old friends, laugh and catch up on their lives. I played my favorite sports, golf and tennis, and wasn’t even that horrible! I went running with my mom and was able to do so without feeling completely harassed and signaled out (other than the fact that the altitude about obliterated me). In fact, I could go anywhere I wanted and perfectly blend in. No one shouted anything at me; no one demanded money or treats and no one made me feel unwelcome. It was bliss.
During my visit, I was asked if it was hard to be home, if I was having trouble readjusting. Honestly, I thought that it would be a lot harder. It was too easy to get back into the routine of having my own transportation, speaking English, having a refrigerator, having cold and clean drinking water, sleeping in a comfortable bed not in a pool of my own sweat, taking hot showers every day, seeing my family, and just being back in normal life. However, it wasn’t easy to see the excessive wealth. It was difficult to adjust to the price of things and to realize how much crap everyone has. Driving on the freeway legitimately scared me. The technology everywhere honestly grossed me out. It’s all over the place. I saw multiple groups of people that would sit there, not saying a word to each other, and just be messing around with their gadgets.  

Another common series of questions that I was asked by virtually everyone was obviously about my time in Senegal. “How’s Senegal, do you just love it?!” (No, no I don’t. I’m actually not just on an extended vacation there, contrary to popular belief). “What’s Africa like?!” (It’s hot there. If I went past this response, eyes tended to glaze over unless they were my close friends). “So, like, what are you even doing over there?” (Good question. Helping the people? My standard response: Working with underrepresented groups such as women and children and teaching them ways to alleviate their poverty (The typical response to that? Silence.  And then, oh…awesome!). “Did you learn that clicking language?” (Um, no). People mean well but ultimately the only ones who truly understand my time in Senegal and what it has been like for me here are my fellow PCV friends.
I guess that brings me to the last question that I was consistently asked, “When are you coming home?” This one was a little more difficult for me to answer. Like most PCV’s, I go back and forth every day, such is the rollercoaster life of our emotions here. One day I want to slap every Senegalese person I see in the face (don’t worry, I don’t actually do this) and run all the way back to the states but then the next day, I’m walking around greeting everyone and loving life. For me, I came to Senegal to work, to help people, to make a difference in the world. I knew I would have downtime but I thought that would be minimal compared to my work load. I have found this is not the case.  I can’t say though that a part of me didn’t come here for the selfish reasons as well. I know what this experience will do for my professional life as well as my own personal growth that I am going through here.

I think, though, sometimes I forget what I signed up for by coming here. It’s not supposed to be a cakewalk (as one of my good friends here put it). Every day is hard. Every single day is a challenge but what is life anywhere if not a series of different challenges? Yes, I miss everyone and everything familiar to me but my visit home definitely taught me that nothing has changed in the states. Some people have moved away and there are more babies, different jobs, but overall, everyone and everything are exactly the same.
I guess the moral of all this insane rambling is that I’m going to do my best to keep pushing on here. The answer to the question is that I don’t know when I’m coming home. I’m not making any promises and I’m just going to try to live simply and take things one day at a time.

Now I’d like to end this on a fun note. You’re probably wondering what in the hell I do with myself amidst all of this downtime that I ramble on and on about. Well, in the past year, I have read over 30 books. I re-read some of my favorite books that if you haven’t read, you need to. These include The Passage, The Terror, The Giver, The Last Lecture, and Under the Dome (among 7 other Stephen King books, him being my favorite author and all). I have watched about 7 different full series of TV shows. New favorites included Modern Family and New Girl along with re-watching one of my favorite series of all time, Arrested Development. I watched around 50 movies. Of course, the best Pixar and Disney were on repeat (Tangled, Up, Wall-E, Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon, Mulan, etc.). Finally, I wrote. I wrote this blog and I wrote over 100 pages in a journal. I also sat a lot and just reflected. I reflected about many of the things I’ve written here so no need to get into any of that again.
Overall, I am so grateful for this journey and what it has taught me about the world and myself. Not many people can say they spent a year in Senegal: learning new languages, dancing, crying, laughing, and just living. I can. And I will never regret it.

Until the next time then,